Even the Children’s Program The Amanda Show Requires Classification Icons, Affirms Canadian Broadcast Standards Council

Ottawa, August 6, 2004 – The Canadian Broadcast Standards Council (CBSC) today released its decision concerning two episodes of the Amanda Show broadcast on Family Channel, one of which aired in December 2003 and the other in January 2004.  The National Specialty Services Panel did not find any code breaches with respect to the content of the program; it did, however, find that Family Channel’s failure to include classification icons violated the private broadcasters’ codified standards.

The complainant was concerned, in the case of the “Girls’ Room” segments repeated in both episodes, by what she saw as bullying tactics by one of the characters (played by the star of the program) and her entourage.  She considered that the scene “depicted unsafe and potentially dangerous behaviour, both physically and emotionally,” and that there was a risk that children might be “tempted to emulate this behaviour.”  The CBSC Panel agreed that the Amanda Show was clearly intended for children and that, within the area of children’s programming, its themes placed it in the over 8 (but under 12) category.  Consequently, they concluded that the provisions of the Children’s Programming article (Article 2) of the CAB Violence Code were applicable to the Amanda Show.  The Panel did not, however, conclude that the broadcasts breached that section of the Code.  They said:

The Panel distinguishes between the issue of bullying in society and what was shown as a part of the plots of the two Amanda episodes.  There was, in the Panel’s view, a kind of self-deprecating, spoofing nature to the flushing actions in the two episodes.  [… T]here was in fact no violence.  There was not even any genuinely aggressive behaviour.  […  Nor were the characters] portrayed with any degree of approval or admiration.  In other words, there was no suggestion whatsoever that their pushy tactics ought to be emulated or even looked-up to. […]

In the end, the Panel does not equate the two Amanda episodes to the horrible social practice of bullying, which tends to be behaviour that aggressively mocks, belittles, demeans, vilifies or physically harms its victims.  The Panel does not find in these episodes the harbinger of that dangerous anti-social behaviour.  This is not to say that parents watching these episodes with their children might not find some useful lessons or guidance to bring to their offspring.  It is just to say that, in its review of the rules in the Children’s Programming article of the Violence Code, the Panel finds no problems in the broadcasts.  There is, first of all no violence, either actual or implied.  Second, there are no themes of a nature that would threaten the sense of security of the young audience; examples of such themes are “domestic conflict, the death of parents or close relatives, or the death or injury of their pets, street crime or the use of drugs.”  There are no actions inviting dangerous imitation, as is anticipated by another of the Code paragraphs.  All in all, the Panel finds no breach of any of the provisions of Article 2 of the Code.

It was, however, clear to the Panel that the broadcaster was obliged to include the C8 classification icon at the beginning of each episode.  The failure to do so constituted a breach of the requirements of the AGVOT (Action Group on Violence on Television) rating system, as rooted in Article 4 of the CAB Violence Code.

Canada’s private broadcasters have themselves created industry standards in the form of Codes on ethics, gender portrayal and television violence by which they expect the members of their profession will abide.  In 1990, they also created the CBSC, which is the self-regulatory body with the responsibility of administering those professional broadcast Codes, as well as the Code dealing with journalistic practices first created by the Radio Television News Directors Association of Canada (RTNDA) in 1970.  More than 550 radio and television stations and specialty services from across Canada are members of the Council.

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All CBSC decisions, Codes, links to members' and other web sites, and related information are available on the CBSC's website at www.cbsc.ca. For more information, please contact the CBSC National Chair, Mme Andrée Noël CBSC Executive Director, John MacNab